Most social networks are a waste of time.
Wikipedia lists almost 200 social networking websites. The list comes with a disclaimer: “This list is not exhaustive, and is limited to notable, well-known sites.”
Most of these 200 social networks are wrong for your brand.
Of those 200 social networks, 16 have over 100 million members. Each of those 16 sites has more members than Germany has citizens. That’s a huge potential market for your brand.
Most of these 16 networks are wrong for your brand.
What makes them so toxic? Surely it’s best to reach as many people as possible? The more the merrier, right?
Why Most Social Networks Are a Waste of Time
Social networks are the black holes of the internet.
Got great plans for the week ahead? Planning to be super productive? Then your best bet is a digital detox. Turn off social networks, and you’ll find distractions are gone.
That’s why most social networks are a waste of time for your brand. Because, for the most part, social networks are literally, time wasters. They’re machines of distraction, and if you’re not careful, they will take over your life.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s no value in social networks. This blog is all about marketing with social media. These days, social media is pretty much your best bet for getting your message out there.
Social networks break down the barriers between formal and informal. They mingle our personal and professional lives. You don’t have to call in sick to goof of work. These days, you can goof off work while sitting at your work desk.
For brands who want to get their message out there, that presents a fabulous opportunity. There are a ton of people in the world with too much time on their hands. What do they do with this time? They go to Facebook, Twitter or their favorite online haunt.
You can be reaching out to potential customers around the clock.
For those of us who work in social media marketing, who have to use Facebook for our work, it means we must be extra-vigilant. Facebook is distraction city. It’s all too easy to head over to Facebook to update your page, or check your insights. As you’re there, you check your personal wall and start talking to friends. An hour has passed, and you’ve forgotten why you went on Facebook in the first place!
Even if you’re extremely self-disciplined, and on work time you only do work-related tasks on social networks, they’re still a time sucker. Finding content to share, responding to comments, scheduling updates, keeping your happy face on. It’s a full-time job before you’ve even done anything with your business.
That’s why you’ve got to pick your social networks with care, and that’s why most networks are a waste of time.
The more networks you’re on, the more time you’ll spend updating statuses, replying to comments, and so on.
The more networks you’re on, the greater the chance that you’ll give into temptation and trip up.
So, with such a smorgasbord of networks available, how should you choose?
The Audience Factor – Who’s There?
While some social networks have space for everyone, many are for niche communities.
GoodReads, for example, is the network for bookworms; Ravelry is for anyone who gets their kicks out of yarn crafts; while Last.fm is for music lovers.
Not all networks are for everyone. If you’re an author promoting your books, then GoodReads is perfect for you, but you’d be wasting your time heading over to Last.fm or Ravelry to sell your wares.
If you’re a freelance web designer, then none of the networks are suitable for you (that is, unless your target clients are authors, crochet artists and rock bands).
Do you see where this is going? There’s no point spending time on a social network unless your potential customers hang out there.
On the flip side, if there’s a network that’s all about what your potential customers love doing, then you’re missing out on potential leads if you’re not involved.
To find out if a network is right for you, put together an avatar of your ideal customer.
To create an avatar, imagine you’re casting your customer as a character in a movie. You’ve got to create a backstory for the character. You’ve must know who they are, their personality, their likes and dislikes.
Here are some questions to get your started.
- Where do they live?
- Where do they work?
- What’s their job title?
- Are they male or female?
- Married, single or something else?
- Do they have kids?
- What do they look like?
- How old are they?
- What movies and TV shows do they watch?
- What’s their level of education?
- What are their political and religious views?
- What do they do for fun?
- Which car do they drive?
- Where do they go on vacation?
- What are their dreams and goals?
For most businesses, it’s best if you can come up with a single avatar of your typical customer. However, if you have several different types of “typical” then it’s totally okay to write up more than one avatar.
The aim is to get a sense of who your customers are, so you can make an educated guess about where they hang out online. (Customer avatars have a ton of other uses too, so you’ll be able to recycle your work many times over).
Once you’ve created your avatar, you’re ready to check out all the hundreds of social networks, forums and micro-networks online. Your aim is to find the places where your avatar would hang out. Those are the networks that are right for your brand.
The Feature Factor – Does it Work for You?
After you’ve put together a list of the networks where your homies hang out, what next?
You’ve got to take a look at each social network to see if it’s the kind of place you want to spend time, and to check whether you can integrate it into your life.
Check Out the Members
Browse each social network to see who uses it. You’re looking for answers to questions such as:
- How many members are signed up?
- How many members are active?
- How influential are the members?
For example, Google Plus has 500 million members, but few of them regularly post to the network, which has led to Google Plus being called a ghost town. On the flip side, there are some extremely active Google Plus communities in certain niches. Often, these communities give you access to influencers in your niche.
So, it’s worth digging beyond the surface to see what’s going on. You should choose the networks with the most active members, or that give you access to influencers in your niche.
Check Out the Features
When looking at features, you want to find the networks that give you the biggest impact for minimum effort.
A key feature to look out for is the option to schedule posts. If you can do this from a single dashboard, such as Buffer App or Hootsuite, even better. This is possible on all the Big Four networks:
- Google Plus
Also, does the network allow you to post images and video? The web is becoming multimedia, which means images and videos are crucial to a successful social media strategy. The key networks for image and video are:
Lastly, check whether it has a particular feature your business needs. Some networks, such as Yammer, Trello and Basecamp, are specifically designed to create an internal business social network.
Back a Couple of Outsiders
If you make your decision solely on userbase and features, you’ll end up choosing some of the main social networks. For most businesses, this is the right choice.
But you should also make a couple of quirky choices – up and coming social networks or forums that are relevant to your niche. In horse racing, it’s the risk taker who backs an outsider that ends up winning the fortune.
By putting your fingers in the pie of a couple of smaller social networks, you’ll connect with customers who might never have come across your brand otherwise. You’ll also be a big fish in a small pond, and if the pond grows bigger, you can grow with it.
Most social networks are wrong for your brand. But now you know how to choose the right ones.
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